Chinese Dynasties

When did the Han Dynasty start and end?

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02/23/2010

The Han Dynasty is actually two separate dynasties. It is considered one dynasty by the Chinese because the second dynasty was founded by a member of the former Han dynasty who declared he had restored the Han Dynasty. The original Han Dynasty was overthrown when the wealthy families gained more power than the emperor. The families became allied with each other through marriages and were responsible for the selection of officials. The widow of the emperor Yuan Ti succeeded in placing all of her relatives in government positions and ruling in place of her son. Her nephew, Wang Mang eventually declared himself emperor of a new dynasty, the Hsing (New). His rise to emperor is unusual because he gained much public support on his rise and he began a ceremony in which a seal of precious stone was passed to the emperor. From then on, whoever held this seal was the official emperor. Wang Mang was overthrown by a secret society of peasants known as the Red Eyebrows, because they painted their eyebrows red. The descendents of the Han dynasty eventually joined in the uprising, and, it was the armies of these nobles, under the leadership of Liu Hsiu, who killed Wang Mang in 22A.D. The fighting continued until 25 A.D., when Liu Hsiu became the emperor. As an emperor he was called Kuang-wu Ti. Millions of people died during the fighting, leaving land for the peasants, and often, the freedom of debt as the lenders had died.

The second Han Dynasty had much success with their foreign policy. Part of this success was due more to luck than to anything the Han did. The Hsiung nu who had previously been one of the most dangerous enemies of the Chinese were defeated by the Hsien-pi and the Wu-huan. Half of the Hsiung nu moved south, and became part of the Chinese empire. The Hsiung nu appeared to be trying to reunite and form a large empire comprising all of Turkestan. Thus, in 73 A.D. the Chinese began a campaign in Turkestan. The whole of Turkestan was quickly conquered which would have ensured a trading monopoly, however, the emperor Ming Ti died and Chang Ti became emperor. He favored an isolationist policy so that much of what was gained in Turkestan was now lost. Pan Ch'ao, the deputy commander who had led the invasion, stayed in Turkestan to try and hold onto what had been won, and eventually in 89 A.D. a new emperor came to power with a renewed interest in holding Turkestan. Despite this military success, economic and political struggles arose within China. Internal struggles for power taxed the peasants, until in 184 A.D. when another peasant uprising occurred. This movement was begun by the Yellow Turbans. This uprising served to unite the factions who had previously been fighting one another because they needed to unite to defeat the Yellow Turbans. Despite conquering them, China did not return to a united state. Rather, three kingdoms emerged and the Han dynasty came to an end.